Monday, November 23, 2009
Frode Gjerstad, Nick Stephens, Louis Moholo-Moholo (Loose Torque, 2009) ****
To hear them play here is quite a pleasure, very much in the European free improv tradition, in which the intensity of the interaction between the musicians is key, with the sounds created on the spot with an immediacy and directness that almost goes against the natural flow you would expect from any music.
The album's title "Quiddity" refers to the very nature of things, the commonality of characteristics that makes an object what it is, and what it shares with others of the same group.
The more abstract a description, the more elements it shares with others, the more you come to total unity. So it can be both a musical as spiritual thing. The music is abstract, starting on the first track, "The Nature", with high-pitched short, almost whistling notes of the alto, with equally pointillistic support from bass and drums, evolving over very agitated and nervous playing on the second piece, "The Gist", and strangely enough the third track, "The Whatness", ends in longer notes, stretched tones, a concept which is continued on the last track, "The Essence", on which Gjerstad switches to clarinet; a piece which becomes almost intimate, fragile. Obviously each track is more varied than described here, with the necessary shifts in tempo and intensity. I focus too much on Gjerstad while describing the above: the quality of the playing and the unity displayed by the three musicians is absolutely excellent. Stephens is fast, deep, versatile and precise on arco and plucked, and Moholo-Moholo's rumbling and sharp polyrhythmics are as much defining the music. And that is abstract in nature and form. And free. And one.